A day out from his team’s crunch match with Germany, Matildas coach Alen Stajcic has refused to discuss the fitness of star defender Steph Catley.
Having squandered plentiful chances in their 2-0 loss to Canada on Wednesday, Australia are at risk of being eliminated early from the Rio women’s football tournament.
Stajcic’s side returns to Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians – the venue of their loss to Canada – to take on the highly-fancied Germans on Saturday. Germany enter the match on the back of a 6-1 win over Zimbabwe.
Should they lose to Germany, even a win for the Matildas in their final group match against Zimbabwe may not be enough to progress to the quarter-finals. The top two teams in each of the three groups qualify for the last eight, along with the two best third-placed teams.
Having sat out of last month’s warm-up match against Brazil, Catley came off the bench in Wednesday’s defeat. That she didn’t start in such an important match raised eyebrows given the high regard in which she is held. Dynamic forwards Lisa De Vanna and Kyah Simon were also used as substitutes.
The Matildas had their final training session on Friday morning (Brazil time) and Stajcic said work-out would help guide selection.
But asked specifically about Catley’s health, Stajcic kept coy.
“There’s different reasons for different things, which I can’t really go into, and don’t really want to,” Stajcic told Fairfax Media.
“There’s other circumstances. We need to keep some things within our team.”
As for the general condition of the team, Stajcic said: “There’s always knocks and bruises after a game.”
Australia had 62 per cent of possession against Canada and took 16 shots to nine, but despite the opposition being restricted to 10 women for the bulk of the game, the Matildas were unable to capitalise. Stajcic said it was frustrating.
“We had enough control of the game, enough possession and enough chances on goal.
“We’ve got to address those things quickly and move on.”
But the man who took the Matildas to the quarter-finals of last year’s World Cup said he was optimistic ahead of the clash with Germany, who at No. 2 are ranked three spots ahead of Australia in the FIFA world rankings.
“It’s a different game. You can’t take one international match into another.
“It starts at nil-all again.
“They’ve been one of the two powers of women’s football for the last 20 years along with America, so we know it’s going to be a tough game.
“It’s a difficult challenge…we’ve really got to come out fighting.
“I’m sure come game day you’re going to see a very good approach from our team.”
The Matildas could take some confidence from the fact they rebounded well from a 3-1 defeat to the US in their World Cup opener last year, still progressing to the second round.
“Of course we can turn things around pretty quickly,” Stajcic said.
“Probably the difference was we played a really good game that day [against the US] whereas this one was not up to our usual standard.”
Stajcic also said no further action would be taken surrounding the homophobic slurs directed by crowd members in Portuguese towards Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams during the loss to Canada.
The Matildas were planning to watch Friday night’s opening ceremony on television.
Australia take on Germany at 6pm Saturday in Sao Paulo (7am AEST Sunday).